Firing of Mexico’s Leading Journalist Brings Freedom of Press Issues to Forefront

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The LA Times describes Carmen Aristegui as  “sort of a cross between Christiane Amanpour and a dog with a bone,” calling her “possibly Mexico’s most famous journalist, very courageous and often annoying.”  Borderland Beat, calls her “the most fearless, scrupulous, ethical, authentic, loved journalist in Mexico.” By most accounts, the name Carmen Aristegui is synonymous with credibility.

So why was she fired yesterday by her employer MVS Radio? All signs point to an ongoing attack on Mexico’s freedom of the press.

Aristegui has made her name reporting on government corruption, most recently exposing the “casa blanca” scandal that roiled a populace already reeling from the the disappearance of the normalistas of Ayotzinapa. Her revelations exacerbated what was already one of the worst crises of Enrique Peña Nieto’s presidency.

Last week, Aristegui, along with her team of close collaborators Daniel Lizarraga and Irving Huerta, helped launch MexicoLeaks, an online platform modeled after Wikileaks that encourages citizens to anonymously post documents of public interest, and expose government and corporate misconduct.

But her involvement in MexicoLeaks didn’t sit well with MVS Radio, where Aristegui has worked for the last six years. In fact, the broadcaster went to great lengths to distance its brand from the MexicoLeaks platform, even airing ads during Aristegui’s show claiming that MVS’s involvement had been misrepresented. Shortly afterward, MVS fired Aristegui’s collaborators  – the same ones involved in breaking the casa blanca story – claiming they had violated the company’s code of ethics by implying MVS was a sponsor of MexicoLeaks.

When Aristegui publicly fought back, complaining about the “authoritarian wind” in Mexico, and demanding their reinstatement, she got the axe too. MVS released a statement saying it could not permit its employees to “impose conditions and ultimatums on the administration.”

Though ostensibly “defending their brand,” many critics have pointed out that MVS’s actions more closely resemble censorship. Forbes quotes Mexican political activist Denise Dresser as saying “the crime of Carmen Aristegui was to try to give Mexican citizens through #MexicoLeaks a platform to denounce corruption anonymously. Since she was going to receive tons of complaints they shut her up.”

This isn’t the first time this has happened during Aristegui’s turbulent six year tenure at MVS. In 2012, she was briefly fired after repeating allegations that then President Felipe Calderon had a serious drinking problem. She was reinstated after much public outcry, and the LA Times reports that an MVS studio executive later admitted he had been pressured to fire her by Calderon’s staff.

Twitter has since been flooded with outrage from Aristegui’s supporters under the hashtag #InDefenseOfAristegui2. Meanwhile, Peña Nieto’s office has refused requests for a statement.